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Boston and Massachusetts officials have issued a cease-and-desist order to a ferry company after a photo of what appeared to be a crowded Boston Harbor ship over the weekend drew some outrage on social media.
The Boston Public Health Commission, together with the state's Department of Labor Standards, issued the order Monday evening, saying the event depicted in the photo is not allowed in the current phase of the state's economic reopening.
The image, taken by nonprofit consultant and former Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts CEO Marty Walz, showed the vessel Provincetown II preparing to depart for a 2 1/2-hour cruise Saturday night. Most guests were on the open-air top deck.
Bay State Cruise Company, which operates the vessel, said all proper guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus were followed.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the gathering in the photo "represents a serious threat to public health."
"We've made great sacrifices and worked hard over the last few months to stop the very real and very dangerous spread of COVID-19, and it's vital every person and every business take this public health emergency seriously, and do their part to keep their families, neighbors and communities safe," Walsh said in a statement released Monday.
In a press conference the next day, Walsh reiterated his concerns about gatherings like the one held by Bay State Cruises, and urged caution for businesses and their patrons going forward.
"We have had our own struggles in the last five months where we had to shut everything down," he said. "It's difficult. It wears on your brain. And if we don't want to return back to that, we need to continue to be very vigilant in protecting ourselves and protecting our families."
Walsh said that in order for Boston to avoid the kinds of spikes in coronavirus cases that other cities across the country have seen in recent weeks, it will be incumbent on residents not to relax their caution around physical distancing and other public health guidance.
"We think we're winding down on COVID-19, but we're not," he said. "If we were in a sporting event, we're probably at halftime right now. Which means we have another five, six, seven, eight, nine months to go. So we’ve got to be very careful. "
The vessel sailed at 33% capacity, within the company's COVID-19 operating limits of 44% capacity, Michael Glasfield, a manager with the company, said in an email to WBTS-TV. That allowed for 28 square feet per passenger, enough room for 6 feet of social distancing, he said.
In the cease-and-desist order, however, the state listed several operations that are not allowed during the current "phase three, step one" of the economic reopening.
"Prohibited activities include: Summer Music Cruise; and Group Charters with dancing. Bars, dance clubs and nightclubs – venues offering entertainment, beverages, or dancing and not providing seated food service prepared on-site and under retail food permits [are] not eligible to reopen until Phase IV," the order reads.
Material from The Associated press was used in this report
This article was originally published on July 27, 2020.
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